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Transition 2012

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Debate One: Obama and Romney Focus on the Economy

by Newsteam Staff
October 4, 2012

A crowd of spectators watches the start of the first 2012 U.S. presidential debate at Denver University in Denver, Colorado October 3, 2012. (Mark Leffingwell/Courtesy Reuters) A crowd of spectators watches the start of the first 2012 U.S. presidential debate at Denver University in Denver, Colorado October 3, 2012. (Mark Leffingwell/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney met last night for the first of three debates, which focused on domestic economic issues. Here’s what they had to say on job creation, entitlement spending, and taxation.

On Jobs

President Obama on his job creation strategy:

Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes, skewed towards the wealthy, and roll back regulations, that we’ll be better off. I’ve got a different view. I think we’ve got to invest in education and training. I think it’s important for us to develop new sources of energy here in America, that we change our tax code to make sure that we’re helping small businesses and companies that are investing here in the United States, that we take some of the money that we’re saving as we wind down two wars to rebuild America and that we reduce our deficit in a balanced way that allows us to make these critical investments.

Mitt Romney on creating jobs:

I’m concerned that the path that we’re on has just been unsuccessful. The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more — if you will, trickle-down government — would work. That’s not the right answer for America. I’ll restore the vitality that gets America working again.

On Entitlement Spending

President Obama on the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan:

The idea, which was originally presented by Congressman Ryan, your running mate, is that we would give a voucher to seniors and they could go out in the private marketplace and buy their own health insurance. The problem is that because the voucher wouldn’t necessarily keep up with health care inflation, it was estimated that this would cost the average senior about $6,000 a year. Now, in fairness, what Governor Romney has now said is he’ll maintain traditional Medicare alongside it. But there’s still a problem, because what happens is, those insurance companies are pretty clever at figuring out who are the younger and healthier seniors. They recruit them, leaving the older, sicker seniors in Medicare. And every health care economist that looks at it says, over time, what’ll happen is the traditional Medicare system will collapse.

Mitt Romney on letting the states handle Medicaid:

And, finally, Medicaid to states? I’m not quite sure where that came in, except this, which is, I would like to take the Medicaid dollars that go to states and say to a state, you’re going to get what you got last year, plus inflation, plus 1 percent, and then you’re going to manage your care for your poor in the way you think best. And I remember, as a governor, when this idea was floated by Tommy Thompson, the governors — Republican and Democrats — said, please let us do that. We can care for our own poor in so much better and more effective a way than having the federal government tell us how to care for our poor. So — so let’s state — one of the magnificent things about this country is the whole idea that states are the laboratories of democracy. Don’t have the federal government tell everybody what kind of training programs they have to have and what kind of Medicaid they have to have. Let states do this.

On Taxes

President Obama on Romney’s tax plan:

Now, Governor Romney’s proposal that he has been promoting for 18 months calls for a $5 trillion tax cut, on top of $2 trillion of additional spending for our military. And he is saying that he is going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions. The problem is that he’s been asked over 100 times how you would close those deductions and loopholes, and he hasn’t been able to identify them. But I’m going to make an important point here, Jim. When you add up all the loopholes and deductions that upper-income individuals can — are currently taking advantage of, you take those all away, you don’t come close to paying for $5 trillion in tax cuts and $2 trillion in additional military spending. And that’s why independent studies looking at this said the only way to meet Governor Romney’s pledge of not reducing the deficit or — or — or not adding to the deficit is by burdening middle-class families. The average middle-class family with children would pay about $2,000 more.

Mitt Romney on his tax plan:

So if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I’d say absolutely not. I’m not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That’s part one. So there’s no economist that can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan. Number two, I will not reduce the share paid by high-income individuals. I know that you and your running mate keep saying that and I know it’s a popular thing to say with a lot of people, but it’s just not the case. Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that — that is not the case. All right? I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans. And number three, I will not under any circumstances raise taxes on middle-income families. I will lower taxes on middle-income families. Now, you cite a study. There are six other studies that looked at the study you describe and say it’s completely wrong. I saw a study that came out today that said you’re going to raise taxes by $3,000 to $4,000 on middle-income families. There are all these studies out there. But let’s get at the bottom line. That is, I want to bring down rates.

Read the full transcript here.

Read more about the candidates’ positions on the economy in this CFR Issue Tracker.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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